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Are perrenial forests viable as a standalone?

 
Jeff McLeod
Posts: 95
Location: New Hampshire
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So far everything I have read appear at least to mention more of a mixed agriculture model. Meaning some orchard, some animal and more importantly annual cropping. Is anyone following this form of agriculture without annual crop production? I watched the Mark Shepard presentation and he mentions income from annual plantings. Would the farm still be a viable entity without the annuals? Also noticed that he mentions buying in feed to 'bait' his animals. What happens if there aren't the big industrial producers out there to create this food?

It's pretty intriguing stuff. As far as the fruit tree part goes ... how many generations of fruit trees will survive with a completely hands off approach? Same with other perennial crops like say grapes. After a season or two at most they won't produce a viable crop without some kind of input.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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That is why they have animal urine(nitrogen, phosphorous) and manure(nitro+humus), those are the inputs.
The swales/keylines are already made(input) and they will last a while.
By the time they are filled, the rest of the 100 acres will also be filled with 3ft of new soil/humus too.
As long as we are not constantly stripping the soil for water and wind to erode the soil will stay fertile.
As long as we are not removing all the "pest reserve" biomass offsite the soil will remain fertile.
(we use the cow/pig/chicken/etc to remove the pest leaving manure behind)

What other inputs are you talking about. Yes there is sun and rainfall but that is already a given.
As for the next generation of trees. If one hazelnut tree makes 50 new seedlings then 30 will get killed by "fungus"
Another 15 will get eaten by animals, and 4 will die because of lighting/weather.
But 1 out of that 50 will survive which is all that is needed to keep the forest going, to replace the current one at death.

If almond orchards a perrenial crop are viable alone then a almond+mullberry+etc orchard should also be viable, without annuals.
Even a walnut "forest" grown just for lumber is viable. The key to viability is to treat it like a lumber forest plant it,
dont add inputs and harvest yearly or every 50yr, just cut down your input cost.

Savanna/meadow always have wild flowers/grasses/annuals mixed in with trees/shurbs. So it should be a part of the system.
And if we leave the annuals to self-seed and not leave the soil bare for wind and water to erode.
Use animals to clean the area while leaving behind (input) then the soil will be ok.

As for hand feeding the young animals to imprint himself as part of the pack.
I am sure that the same could be done without using annual grains, maybe chestnut flour or apples(juice) or milk bottles or mulberry leaves.
It is also pretty easy to convert more of the farm to silvo-pasture to grow more cow food.
This farm is part of the big industrial system, if it when away that would include him. this is not a small 20 acre farm we are talking 100+ acres.

 
Jeff McLeod
Posts: 95
Location: New Hampshire
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S Bengi wrote:That is why they have animal urine(nitrogen, phosphorous) and manure(nitro+humus), those are the inputs.
The swales/keylines are already made(input) and they will last a while.
By the time they are filled, the rest of the 100 acres will also be filled with 3ft of new soil/humus too.
As long as we are not constantly stripping the soil for water and wind to erode the soil will stay fertile.
As long as we are not removing all the "pest reserve" biomass offsite the soil will remain fertile.
(we use the cow/pig/chicken/etc to remove the pest leaving manure behind)

What other inputs are you talking about. Yes there is sun and rainfall but that is already a given.
As for the next generation of trees. If one hazelnut tree makes 50 new seedlings then 30 will get killed by "fungus"
Another 15 will get eaten by animals, and 4 will die because of lighting/weather.
But 1 out of that 50 will survive which is all that is needed to keep the forest going, to replace the current one at death.

If almond orchards a perrenial crop are viable alone then a almond+mullberry+etc orchard should also be viable, without annuals.
Even a walnut "forest" grown just for lumber is viable. The key to viability is to treat it like a lumber forest plant it,
dont add inputs and harvest yearly or every 50yr, just cut down your input cost.

Savanna/meadow always have wild flowers/grasses/annuals mixed in with trees/shurbs. So it should be a part of the system.
And if we leave the annuals to self-seed and not leave the soil bare for wind and water to erode.
Use animals to clean the area while leaving behind (input) then the soil will be ok.

As for hand feeding the young animals to imprint himself as part of the pack.
I am sure that the same could be done without using annual grains, maybe chestnut flour or apples(juice) or milk bottles or mulberry leaves.
It is also pretty easy to convert more of the farm to silvo-pasture to grow more cow food.
This farm is part of the big industrial system, if it when away that would include him. this is not a small 20 acre farm we are talking 100+ acres.



Thanks for your answers - from the presentation though it sounded as though the farm still relied on production of annual crops. Hence the question. Would it still be a viable entity without annuals? I'm not seeing much difference between this type of farming and a pre-industrial poly-culture with the exception of course that it appears as though the suggestion is to do away with annuals completely. From my very limited knowledge of trees especially fruit trees (apples/pears etc) no input in terms of pruning will eventually over a couple of seasons leave the tree with a very marginal fruit output. Unless of course one can find specially trained ninja deer that know exactly what branches and shoots they should be eating As an example we have a row of grapes in our back garden that have not been cut back in 3 seasons. The last harvest from 6 grape bushes was approximately 2 bunches so less than a pound of grapes (concord).

BTW a big industrial system would be in the region of hundreds of acres not 100. When my paternal great uncles retired from farming they were doing it on something like 1 1/2 sections (~ 1000 acres) and that was considered a pretty small concern. I tend to agree with the idea of not constantly churning up the land ala the industrial food model. However I'm beginning to think that a balanced approach or poly-culture with both annual and perennial plantings as well as animal inputs is the way to go complete with artificial inputs like poly-tunnels BTW. It would seem to me at least as though an individual assessment would be required that would determine some areas of the land better for perennials, other parts for annual, some for grazing (which of course could also be planted with perennials), some areas perhaps suited or more suited to hugel-kulture (sp) other areas better suited for rotational annual cropping under cover. JMHO of course I'm at the bottom of a huge learning curve and realize that YMMV

Jeff
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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if you have no desire for the annual vegetables, then sure you could do only perennials in your food forest..it would be fine..There are plenty of perennials that can be used in the understory. several of my food forest sections are totally perennial..but I enjoy eating annuals so I have some areas that are used for annuals too
 
Mark Shepard
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Hey Jeff...
Read the book Restoration Agriculture: http://www.forestag.com/book.html We started when we bought an annual crop farm. In the early years 100% of our income was from annuals... AS time went on and our system has matured, we have relied less and less on annuals... Out of 100 acres, we only grow 3 acres of annual cash crops now... If we weren't growing annual crops for cash-flow, we would have had to be grazing critters....

The agroforestry systems of Alleycropping and Silvopasture are described extensively in the book.. http://www.forestag.com/book.html
 
Jeff McLeod
Posts: 95
Location: New Hampshire
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Mark Shepard wrote:Hey Jeff...
Read the book Restoration Agriculture: http://www.forestag.com/book.html We started when we bought an annual crop farm. In the early years 100% of our income was from annuals... AS time went on and our system has matured, we have relied less and less on annuals... Out of 100 acres, we only grow 3 acres of annual cash crops now... If we weren't growing annual crops for cash-flow, we would have had to be grazing critters....

The agroforestry systems of Alleycropping and Silvopasture are described extensively in the book.. http://www.forestag.com/book.html


Thanks Mark - definitely intend to take a read. What do you make of other systems of 'alternative' agriculture? I'm talking of course about things such as Hugel-kulture or for that matter organic methods espoused by folks like Eliot Coleman using high tunnels etc? It seems to me as though there is a place for all types of agriculture ... with IMHO the exception of the current industrial ag model which I think we can all agree is totally unsustainable. I guess my question in a nutshell (pardon the pun) would be ... is your approach an all or nothing one or do you believe that a poly-culture can and perhaps should consist of multiple disciplines of organic farming techniques?

< edit > One last question/observation. I noted the comment about earthworms being non-native to the continent. honey bees are also non-native. Is there any evidence to suggest that they may also be doing harm to the indigenous environment?

Thanks

Jeff
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I suspect that we might actually not know exactly what we are doing, but that we are capable of figuring it out. Economically viable is a moving target--and I'd guess that the transition that Mr. Shepard is experimenting with might be a microcosm of the transition that would need to occur at larger scales.
 
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